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Pirate hunters to lose helicopters

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Pirate hunters to lose helicopters
Tim Freccia/AP/Scanpix
17:49 CEST+02:00
The two Swedish military helicopters being used as part of the battle against Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden are to be returned to Sweden to be put on standby.

The helicopters are currently based on HMS Carlskrona, which is the headquarters ship for the EU's anti-piracy forces in the region. The helicopters increase the range of the Swedish forces by 70 percent.

They are being brought back to Sweden to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup, an EU naval force composed of Nordic countries and Ireland. The force will be on standby from 1st January 2011, but could be sent anywhere in the world at short notice after that.

Military chiefs say the decision to remove the helicopters from Somalia is due to a lack of resources, but Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors has now questioned that decision:

“The government has said that ongoing missions should always be prioritized where there is a need. The military itself should decide the size of that need, not politicians. For the second half of this mission, the military has not rated the need for helicopters as higher than for the Nordic Battle Group. But I have noted that [the commanders of the mission] have been clear that the helicopters would be useful in Somalia. It is therefore reasonable for the military to reconsider.”

Karl Sörenson at the Swedish Defence Research Agency said it was “strange that they prioritise planning and training for a standby group that will maybe never be used over an ongoing live operation.”

When asked why the armed forces were prioritizing a planned exercise over an ongoing operation, Lieutenant General Anders Lindström, head of Sweden's military operations, said:

“Parliament has decided that we should have a battle group on standby. The helicopter element is a significant part of supporting this force. It would have of course been better if we had more helicopters. But we are now using the resources we have in a well considered way.”

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